The second shovel’s head was dented once again. Yet the rock buried in the ground was not even scratched.
“Heh, I’ll pry you out eventually!”
The man scraped off the soil from the rock using his bent shovel, also pushing some pebbles aside.
After all the soil was removed, he finally saw the rock clearly.
There was a small torch on the wall of the pit. From the weak fiery glow, the man saw a block of white. It was shiny like how a piece of ice reflected light.
Unless…Did he find treasure?!
He was excited, then came another person.
“What’s that? Let me see.”
“Sigh, what are you here for? I dug this myself!” he whined.
“What’s the matter?” More people came over when they heard the conversation. They saw the block of white but no one knew what it was. They hadn’t seen anything like it before.
“It looks like ice?” said someone.
“Let me touch… It’s cold but it’s not ice. It’s hard,” said another, squatting down to touch it.
“It’s not ice. I think it’s some kind of crystal,” guessed another older guy.
Not just the guy who discovered the rock, everyone else’s eyes brightened.
It would be awesome if that was crystal. Although they did not know how much it was worth, it could just be used to make ornaments. It would sell well at the market. The slave masters liked stuff like that.
However, in the salt mines, a place with fire crystals… it could be some priceless artefact! Well, it already destroyed two shovels!
“I’ll report to the chief!” The one with the fastest response rushed out of the pit to ask for a reward from the chief.
Everyone else stomped their feet in frustration, they were too slow. “What’s he in a hurry for? To go to hell?!”
The person who found the crystal first did not leave. He stood there, unmoving. So what if someone else went to the chief first? He dug up the stone! His portion of the reward would be huge.
Everyone else smart enough looked at the block of white, then quickly picked up their tools and dug frantically. The rest started moving too. The fire crystals didn’t exist in just one spot. Perhaps more of this crystal could be found right under their feet?! That guy had only dug deeper than them.
Indeed, after some time, another ‘clunk’ could be heard. The sound of metal hitting a hard object.
“Haha, I found one too!”
“I found one here!”
The people in the pit scraped away pebbles and soil to find that everything was white under their feet! Everything! They could not find the edge. Perhaps this crystal was larger than they imagined! A giant block of crystal!
“Ugh, this is hard. How do we pry a piece out?” Someone attempted several tools but all only left some scratches. They could not crack a piece out.
“Idiot! You need skill for that!” An experienced miner took out a chisel and hammer, delighted.
The guy squatted and studied the ground. He stopped at a part, pointed his chisel on the ground and then hammered hard.
Other people noticed that this piece of crystal was not completely smooth, there were gaps and folded as if they were blocks of hexagons. The edge of the hexagons were gaps and slightly lighter in colour. The man stuck the sharp chisel in the gaps and then hammered heavily.
Clang! Clang! Clang!
Since it could not be pried out, he hit faster. The hammering sounds seemed to be consecutive.
The chisel broke. A piece of white broke off and flew. Someone nearby with quick reflexes leapt, springing off the wall of the pit to catch the block smaller than his palm. The hexagon lacked one corner now.
The man who caught the white piece leaned closer to the torch, using its glow to study it. Everyone else leaned over too, the supervisors at the top of the pit looked down.
“Crystal! It must be some sort of crystal!”
“Look, it has patterns!”
“What patterns? Like frozen snow?”
“What the hell do you mean by frozen snow? This is a crystal structure!” Someone wanted to sound smarter.
“Similar.” the person put the piece in his mouth and bit it but it was cold. “It’s cold! Too hard!”
“Quick, let’s pry a few more pieces before the chief arrives!”
Everyone agreed and immediately got to work. People who didn’t get a chisel started fighting. There weren’t just Fox tribesmen here, there were Shen people too. When it came to matters regarding valuables, conflicts occurred easily.
The people who snatched a chisel for themselves started hacking.
The Fox chief was currently talking to the Shen chief about their harvest. They were working on a plan because their scouts had received news about the whereabouts of Taihe and Mountain Wind. Unfortunately, most of them were seen and killed.
The three tribes seemed angry. With the current hostilities, they did not know if these tribes would come raid their stores. They had to strengthen defences. They’d prepared long-term stocks in their cave so food and fur were sufficient, and there was a lot of firewood left. They hadn’t known the weather would be so harsh but at least they had enough supplies.
As they spoke, a miner hurried excitedly to report that they had found a new type of crystal.
This was good news. The chiefs followed him back to the pit.
“If it really is a new kind of crystal, I wonder how much it’s worth,” said the Shen chief happily.
“No matter what, it will be good. I’ve been telling you that us making this decision was a good thing.” The Fox chief was equally excited.
“Let me see what crystal it is?”
The Shen tribe’s birds had been ignored by everyone for the past few days. Right now, the fox from the Fox tribe, plus these birds were all crowding themselves into a corner and shaking all over. No one would’ve been able to force these animals out if they’d seen them. The animals all made no sound, frozen on the spot as if they wished they were stone.
Within the Flaming Horn cave. Shao Xuan was observing the heartbeat.
“The time gap between the beats is shortening, the beats are getting louder too.” Shao Xuan described the beats to Zheng Luo and the rest.
Although the three chiefs could not hear it, their heartbeats also quickened as they listened to Shao Xuan’s descriptions. They might not be able to hear it but it still felt unsettling to hear such a description.
“Wait! Something’s not right!”
Shao Xuan’s sudden remark made all three chiefs shoot up immediately.
“It’s quickening, getting louder, it’s changing too quickly!” Beads of sweat sprouted out of his forehead. Shao Xuan was very nervous because he did not know what it was.
The three chiefs’ hearts were hanging at their throats now. They stared at Shao Xuan, waiting for his next words. However, his next words made their heart fall to rock bottom.
“Chief, I have a guess.” Shao Xuan gulped, forcing his fear down. He hadn’t had this feeling in a long time. He remembered having this feeling a long time ago when he lost his way during hunts.
“Just… say it!” Even Zheng Luo stammered.
“I suspect… there’s a… King Beast underground!” Shao Xuan stuttered at every word, but each word shocked the three chiefs to their core.
The three chief’s mouths were agape and they could not finish their sentence.
The King Beast only existed in their ancestor’s handwritten records, they’d only heard of it in legends. Even the ancestors who wrote the records might not have witnessed one. They just passed the stories down generations.
No one wanted to face the king beast, for that was the true king of animals. In the legends, there were many stories of a king beast destroying an entire tribe effortlessly. No one really checked if these stories were true but they knew they would not want to meet a legendary beast like that.
They truly hoped that Shao Xuan was just scaring them, or it was just Shao Xuan’s imagination.
“A long time ago, I once met a king beast. It was the same as the feeling I have right now,” said Shao Xuan, forcing himself to remain calm.
The three chiefs were frozen.
If they already secretly regretted their decision to come, right now, they’d rather bang their heads on the walls.
This is the king beast! Not some random animal in the forest!
How were they going to fight it?
Even if everyone in the caves could unite and work together, could they really fight against one? If it wasn’t for Shao Xuan, they wouldn’t have heard its heartbeat! Even if the three chiefs did their best, they might not be able to keep most of their own tribe alive!
This is a dream, this must be a dream.
Within the Fox tribe’s cave.
The Shen and Fox chiefs were looking down at the workers in the pit, holding a cold piece of crystal the worker had tried so hard to pry out. They did not look happy, instead they had an inexplicable sense of fear. The kind of panic that made them hyperventilate.
“Wait! Stop! Stop prying! I’m telling you, stop!” The Fox chief screamed.
Everyone looked at the chief in confusion, wondering why he was upset. It was silent within the cave.
Crack crack crack crack
The subtle sound grew clearer in the silence.
A gust of freezing wind billowed, the cold penetrating deep into their bones.
The supervisor in the pit looked down stiffly at his sword. The sword’s tip, initially touching the ground, suddenly had a layer of frost extending upwards.
The temperature within the pit fell at alarming speeds. The chiefs, responding quickly, had already run upwards. The ones who were slightly slower realised they could no longer move. Their feet had been frozen to the ground. Initially, they thought their feet were numb to the ground but they realised everything was frozen in their legs. Even their blood could not flow.
The white crystal beneath their feet started to move. Since they could not move, they could only fall heavily towards the walls of the pit as the ground beneath them shook. Unable to escape, right now, chopping off their legs would also be useless because the frost had extended beyond their waist. They had lost all sensation in their lower body.
Crash! Crash! Crash!
Consecutive thuds could be heard in the pit. The Fox chief did not need to look down to know that the people freezing in the pit had broken off into pieces.